USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor dies by suicide as crew prepares to redeploy

Elizabeth Howe
October 14, 2020 - 1:25 pm
USS Theodore Roosevelt leaves San Diego, Oct. 13

DVIDS

A sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt's crew died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound as the crew prepares to redeploy. 

Navy officials first confirmed to both Navy Times and USNI News that the male sailor stationed at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif. “was standing security watch on Lima Pier” when he “suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound." The sailor died early Tuesday morning after being transported to the University of California-San Diego Medical Center’s Trauma Center.

The identity of the sailor is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Navy Times reported that the crew of the USS TR has been told to prepare to redeploy within the coming months, although Navy leadership has not confirmed those reports. The USS TR garnered national media attention at the beginning of the pandemic when its captain, Brett Crozier, was dismissed from his position after raising concern over the COVID-19 outbreak on board. 

The USS TR's deployment was derailed when the crew was forced to dock in Guam, seek lodging on the island, and conduct COVID-19 testing of the crew which -- at the beginning of the pandemic -- took weeks. Eventually, more than 1,200 sailors on board tested positive for the virus. For the first months of the pandemic, the Navy outpaced all other branches of the military with positive COVID-19 cases until they were surpassed by the Army in late June. 

The wellbeing of the crew of the USS TR -- who battled the pandemic on board, handled the dismissal of what was largely interpreted to be a beloved captain, and got caught up in the ensuing media firestorm -- attracted increased attention and scrutiny.

Tuesday's incident draws further attention to the military's recent spike in active-duty suicides. The Department of Defense pushed back recently against data that suggested COVID-19 prevention measures led to an increase in suicides among active-duty troops so far in 2020 -- but Army leaders, at least, have repeatedly connected one to the other. Prevention measures isolate troops from leadership. Restrictions of movement and quarantine efforts isolate troops from their friends and families.

The Navy specifically altered deployment rotations of its various vessels to minimize port visits and exposure. The USS TR didn't return to San Diego until July, then returned to sea promptly in September. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower spent a record-breaking 206 consecutive days at sea once the Navy canceled all port visits. After only a month since it returned from that deployment, the Eisenhower likewise returned to sea. 

The Navy did not immediately respond to media inquiries for further information. Navy Criminal Investigative Service is currently conducting an investigation of the incident. 

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Reach Elizabeth Howe: @ECBHowe.

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